I’ve been in the cub scouts, a college social fraternity, the U.S. Army, the Episcopal church, several corporations, and now a university faculty. I’ve seen my share of hierarchy.
But hierarchy as a model of business organization is dead. Web 2.0 is seeing to that. Collaboration is king. As I write this blog post, I am contributing to the swift demise of hierarchy. So, too, are you when you blog or use Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, and LiveJournal.
Hierarchy as used here is a taxonomy of organizational structure and design. Institutions like the U. S. Army are command and control hierarchies. Many corporations still operate in this manner. But the days of hierarchical structure are limited.
The new model driving the world today is collaboration — people co-creating all sorts of things with Web-based tools. When I post something on this blog, an idea or concept, it can be discussed, refined, debated, ridiculed, and improved by the comments it generates. To a blogger, comments are wonderful things.
But it is not just experts on any given subject who contribute to the co-creation with their comments. Often, it is students, while lacking in years of experience or completed educational credentials, they nevertheless contribute in meaningful ways to the subject being discussed. That is the great joy and value of my More With Les learning community.
My preferred educational theory and practice is called constructivism. In constructivist education, knowledge is built together, or co-created in community, with the instructor playing the part of coach and helper. Scholars have always relied on peer review to test and improve their theories over time. Yet in the blogosphere, this can happen in minutes. Blogs are delightfully constructivist, and as I pointed out in my last post, they are being used more and more in research.
Educators frequently use Blackboard, a flexible e-learning software platform, to augment and sometimes replace altogether (as in distance learning) face-to-face classroom activity. Blackboard’s course management system, with its customizable institution-wide portals, allows communities of learners to co-create knowledge around a subject through Blackboard’s Discussion feature.
Smart organizations are catching on to this phenomenon. Monitoring blogs is a great way to stay in touch with customers and learn what they really want from you and your products and services. The blogosphere will tell you in a heartbeat what users of your products or services like and dislike. Jim Grunig’s famous two-way symmetrical model of communication is made all the more relevant with Web 2.0.
Enter the Millennials. This generation does not trust the media and advertising. But they do trust peer opinion which they readily obtain via social networks. Organizations that learn to understand this powerful force will survive and prosper in sales and marketing, but also in employee recruitment and retention. In fact, the impact of Millennials on the workforce is profound. Millennials, who have grown up collaborating in a digital world, will not embrace the top-down hierarchies of old.